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Dominant's Discussion: Let's Talk about Rules

By CAGE Staff​(staff)     August 19, 2022

Let's dive deep into the world of BDSM rules - specifically for the leaders (Dominants and D-types) of a power exchange couple to read.

After all, for a lot of kinksters, the idea of rules in a relationship is one of the first exposures we have to power exchange. It makes sense that it'd be one of the first things we'd want to explore.

What are BDSM Rules?

Rules are anything that are expected of someone. This can be a rule to do something - or a rule to not do something. That same basic definition applies in the kink world too.

A submissive may be prohibited from drinking during the workweek, for example. They may also be required to edge themselves every Wednesday night - with no orgasm - in preparation for date night on Thursdays with their dominant.

Both are different examples of rules.

Rules can be sexual - and hot, but they can also simply be practical. Requiring a submissive to meet their weekly exercise goals isn't necessarily going to be a great turn-on for either of you, but it can help keep them healthy for other kink activities (and life!) down the road. Requiring a submissive to take out the trash on Monday nights may not be particularly sexual, but it ensures that the house smells better on Tuesday night when you both get together - which lets you both better drop into the kink headspace.

To get into the weeds for a second, BDSM rules can be similar to BDSM protocols. The big difference? Rules require someone to do (or not do!) something; protocols have specific ways that the task should be completed with mindfulness. If the submissive is to ensure they drink 64 ounces of water a day, it is a BDSM rule. Now, if the submissive is to text the dominant after each 8 ounce glass after reciting their mantra with reverence to the dominant, you could argue that those are BDSM protocols instead.

When we're talking about rules for kink, does it really matter if we're talking about rules or protocols? Not really.

Both tend to follow the same advice that we'll be diving into within this article. At its basics, rules and protocols should be:

  • Personalized to the relationship
  • Agreed upon by everyone within the dynamic
  • Adding something to your lives or relationship
  • Slowly added to your lives to ensure they build into memorable habits
  • Enforced within the relationship
  • Regularly revisited to ensure they're still providing value

So, let's talk about rules and protocols, how we can come up with them, what's important about them, and whether we really even need them at all!

How Do I Come Up with Rules for BDSM?

There are a couple of different ways to come up with rules for your BDSM relationship.

One of the most common is to find a list of rules online - and pick and choose which ones you think are hot – and require them as law.

For a multitude of reasons, despite the popularity of this method, I don't recommend it at all. Not only does this remove the submissive's input from the equation, but it also ensures your rules aren't really personalized for your relationship. Along with that, people who take this method tend to "dump" all of the rules onto the relationship at once (usually after signing a BDSM contract!) . This means your relationship goes from minimal structure to highly structured overnight.

All of that comes together for a gigantic recipe for failure - no matter how much you want it to work!

Instead, I recommend treating your ruleset like a negotiating point with your submissive partner. Sit down and have a discussion about it. What rules would they find hot? What rules do they have the time for? What rules will you be able to actively enforce?

Most importantly, though: what rules are actually adding to your relationship - instead of becoming busywork? If you, the dominant, don't really care if the bed is made, requiring your submissive to make the bed to military perfection each more may not be a useful addition to your relationship. Not only will it have a minimal impact on your relationship, but because it isn't something you care about, you're unlikely to catch when the bed doesn't meet your requirements - which allows your "rule" to slide right through the cracks. Do that with enough rules, and it can feel like you're not really present in your own power exchange.

Don't worry about coming up with these personalized rules over a single sit-down session, though. Most kinksters in long-term relationships find that their rules and structure evolve over time.

For example: You come home from a long day at work and find that your brain is focused on work - and unable to adjust to the intimate relationship at home. You discuss the issue with your submissive, and you both agree that you'll text your submissive before the drive tomorrow night. They're expected to be kneeling at the front door to welcome you - and jumpstart your brain out of work mode.

It does such an amazing job - despite accidentally flashing the neighbors - that you decide to modify it and make it a rule. From now on, they'll kneel in the bedroom as you drive home and will be expected to undress you and get you into your comfy clothes. Their presence kneeling in the bedroom when you get home from work now becomes a rule - and a bonding period - in your relationship.

See how it evolves? A couple months later, a new thing might pop up, and you both might decide to add another a competely different rule to your relationship.

This way, rules are added slowly, over time, as needed to add value to your power exchange. As rules are added slowly - and discussed with both partners, everyone sees the value in the rules, and they're customized for your exact relationship and needs.

This sets you both up for success in the long run. It'll be easier to remember your rules, they'll feel like they honor your power exchange, and they'll improve your lives. It's a win-win!

Do I Need Rules for my BDSM?

Nope!

If rules don't speak to you, that's totally okay. You don't need rules or protocols in your relationship.

Rules and protocols function as a quick shortcut to getting things done without needing to communicate about it. They provide a framework of stability and expectations - and ensure everybody knows what they need to be doing.

But there's absolutely nothing wrong with getting turned off by rules - or finding that rules don't suit your power exchange style.

As long as you and your partner are on the same page, have at it!

What Happens if I Don't Enforce the Rules?

The one big caveat if you do choose to have rules: you must enforce them.

How you enforce them is up to you, but setting rules - and never ensuring they're followed - is a bad look and bad for your relationship.

For one, it sets the expectation that you're not paying attention. If your submissive is spending hours of their life following the rules you set, the least you can do is ensure they're doing as requested. If not, this can very much build resentment with your submissive: why do they have to follow your rules if you don't really pay attention when they don't?

That's not a good precedent to set in a power exchange relationship.

For two, especially if your power exchange is rule-heavy, a large part of your relationship is following the rules. The rules provide the structure for your power exchange, punishments, and interaction with one another. Especially if your relationship is focused on rules, ensure you don't set so many rules that you can't remember them all. Enforcing them will be a large part of this type of dynamic.

For another, especially for rules that make our lives function smoothly, it can turn your once-erotic rules into a list of boring chores. "Making the bed so my dominant smiles everytime she sees it" is a whole lot more fun than "making the bed because that's what I have to do". By keeping your rules as part of your power exchange relationship, you enhance the activities and ensure they don't become as boring as mopping the floor after a long day at work.

Long story short: don't add more rules than you can safely remember – and enforce.

What If I Want Them to Break the Rules?

This is where our discussion enters the realm of "funishment" versus punishment. The Cage already offers a full guide on the difference, so I'd recommend reading through that - and saving my poor fingers a bit of typing!

In short, however: the rules you're setting here are designed for protocols and the shaping of your relationship. If you want your submissive to break the rules and fail as part of your roleplay for punishment, make sure that's communicated clearly, and keep your "funishment" methods away from your relationship-stable rules to reduce confusion.

Do I Have to Keep the Rules Forever?

Remember how we talked about rules falling through the cracks?

It's entirely possible that a rule you set at some point doesn't really serve the relationship anymore. It may have faded into the background into a chore - or something the submissive does out of habit with no real benefit to the relationship.

This is why it's good to revisit your rules and protocols on occasion. You may have set a rule for your submissive to text you good morning each morning, but over the years, it's grown a bit stale. The submissive finds it's as ingrained and thoughtless as remembering to pee in the morning, and you may find that you glance at the text and brush it off because you're already focused on your morning work meeting.

That's not really serving your relationship. It's just busywork. At this point, you have three choices: you can keep the rule as-is, you can revamp it, or you can toss it.

You may choose to keep the rule as it is because you enjoy knowing when they're awake and moving around for further texting – even if that particular text isn't intimacy-inducing.

You can swap up the rule itself. You may choose to change what the text is - like maybe an update on how they're feeling or something important to you. You might choose to change when the text is sent - possibly by starting a new wake-up rule - to ensure you have more time to pay attention to it.

Or you both may choose to scrap the rule entirely, and you might find that your long-distance submissive doesn't text you until a bit later in their day - but they usually have more to say when they do.

It's entirely up to you and your relationship - and what works for the both of you.

Most importantly, though: remember that relationships grow and life circumstances change. Rules and protocols that served your relationship even a few months ago may not be serving you today. Don't be afraid to discuss and change rules to find the perfect balance for both of you.

Because if you're going to have rules, they should make your lives better - not fill it with busywork.


Mistress Kay lives in the world of sexuality and kink. With a house that's quickly running out of space for things that aren't sex books and sex toys, she spends what free time she has writing femdom help articles (http://kinky-world.net/category/bdsm-advice/femdom-advice/), trying the latest and greatest in sex toys, and exploring the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World (http://kinky-world.net/).

ricnotslick​(dom male)
Very interesting and some what helpful
Aug 20, 2022, 5:23 PM
sexycurves
I was aware of rules and protocol but I didn't really know how they'd be implemented. Same for the changes in the rules as the relationship develops.
Aug 20, 2022, 8:31 PM
Patient Wolf​(dom male)
A very well written article full of useful information
Aug 20, 2022, 10:54 PM
RefinedLace
well said
Sep 1, 2022, 3:39 AM